AFA on Gates
The Air Force Association (AFA) today urged Congress to reconsider massive defense cuts announced today by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
While pleased with some of the decisions, AFA is deeply concerned that the cuts announced today will significantly impact core capabilities the nation needs...despite the fact that many systems are well underway in research and development, including the F-22 Raptor, already in production; the Transformational Satellite Communications program (TSAT); Airborne Laser (ABL), a key component of missile defense; the Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter and a planned long range strike platform.
With the aging Air Force fleet now on average a quarter-century old, the oldest it has ever been, and some key aircraft twice that age and dating back to the Eisenhower administration, AFA strongly believes the U.S. must recapitalize older air and space systems.
Air Supremacy: AFA urges preservation of the F-22 Raptor production line, continued US production and backs sales of the F-22 to proven allies. Sales of a few squadrons of these to a handful of our closest allies will serve to robustly augment our combined forces and build important coalitions, drive overall production costs down, and preserve economic activity in the U.S.
“The F-22 is much too important to allow this line to close prematurely,” said Mike Dunn, President/CEO of AFA. “We need more of these important aircraft. Production is now at its most affordable point” GEN (RET) Barry McCaffrey has stated: “The F-22 is the most important acquisition program in the Department of Defense. We should buy 750 of them.”
AFA believes we should:
- Preserve the production line
- Strengthen our defense capability
- Build coalition capability with strategic partners
- Protect vital U.S. jobs and economic activity
- Drive costs down per aircraft
- Position the U.S. to preserve air dominance for another generation
Combat Search & Rescue: AFA supports a dedicated CSAR force to extract downed pilots, military personnel in danger of capture and other endangered U.S. citizens – a capability used from high mountains to deserts to over water, and in response to natural disasters as well as military scenarios.
“Combat search and rescue capability is a commitment we make with our troops – a moral obligation ,” said Joe Sutter, AFA’s Chairman of the Board. “We owe them a rapidly deployed, ready, trained, professional force that can bring them to safety.”
Missile Defense: Already progressing in testing and development, airborne laser technology shows promise of being able to destroy an advancing missile with precision at the peak of its trajectory, where the debris will do the least harm.
“North Korea’s test of missile technology displays the need for continued investment in airborne laser,” Dunn said. “This technology could revolutionize our defenses. It’s time to commit to being able to protect ourselves and our allies from errant missiles and hostile launches.”
Communications: The Transformational Satellite Communications System will provide survivable, worldwide, secure satellite communications to U.S. strategic and tactical forces during all levels of conflict.
“This system would deliver secure, jam-resistant, connectivity for stationary or mobile warfighters,” Dunn said. “It will allow military forces anywhere in the world to gain immediate access to vital intelligence. We owe the warfighter quick access to information without the fear of jamming or eavesdropping.”
Long Range Strike: Continued planning and investment in a future long range strike platform is essential to complement the Air Force’s 20 B-2 bombers and older fleet of B-52s and B-1Bs. In the 1990s, the B-2 program was cut short prematurely on the theory that the nuclear mission was being reduced. Now those 20 aircraft are the only U.S. strike platform capable of going anywhere with the stealth capability that the older platforms do not possess.
“Long range strike is a core competency of the Air Force and arguably the most important part of its mission,” Dunn said. “Our bomber fleet is the smallest it has been since before World War II and certainly the oldest it has ever been. Long range strike is vital to ensuring there is truly no sanctuary for an enemy behind anti-aircraft defenses.”